From April 1, tax officers enjoy sweeping powers

Parliament passes Finance Bill

From April 1, tax officers enjoy sweeping powers
Income tax officers can now raid anyone without giving any reason. They can also confiscate property not subject to their raids. These new provisions got legislative approval on Thursday when Parliament passed the Finance Bill. Income tax officers can also raid a property where a charity event is taking place. The Bill has gone to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent, a formality before it comes into force on Saturday.

The Lok Sabha on Thursday rejected five amendments moved by the Opposition Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist and approved in the Rajya Sabha. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the new law mandates ‘abundant caution’ before anyone is raided. To protect whistle-blowers, it provides for the sharing of search and survey details only with a court and not with the person or entity in question, he said.

Political donations
The new law also removes the cap on how much a corporate house can donate to political parties to fight elections. At present, a company is allowed to contribute up to 7.5% of the average of its net profit over three financial years.

The Income Tax Act of 1961, till now in force, lays down that the tax authorities needed, before a raid, reasons to believe a person had undisclosed assets, and was unwilling to disclose information to the tax department. The new law says any property can be provisionally seized during a raid. Earlier, only property subject to the raid was seized. The Opposition contested the removal of a ceiling on corporate funding of elections. After the passage of the Finance Bill, election funding is possible only through electoral bonds or cheques. Only Rs 2,000 can be given by cash.

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